Economists have been using the term “gig economy” for a while to describe an ephemeral workforce, short-term expertise for hire. In local music circles, you could also use the term to describe the two bands on the bill at the sixth show of the Rockin’ on the River concert series Saturday. The musicians who comprise Wish You Were Here and the Colin Dussault Blues Project have been masters of the gig economy a lot longer than the term has been a corporate catchphrase.
In one configuration or another, members of the bands currently work in their respective acts, a duo, and a trio comprised of some mixture of the members and at least one, one-off recording project. And that’s just the projects they work together. There are also various pickup bands and touring lineups with other local and national musicians. Both groups have been kicking around locally since the about the early ‘90s, figuring out ways to become and remain working musicians. In the process, both groups are now made up of veteran players with an encyclopedic vocabulary of styles that allows them to play favorites note-perfect or throw out quirky interpretations.
It’s in the note-perfect details where Wish You Were Here succeeds. Bassist/vocalist Eric “Eroc” Sosinski, and his band have the intricacies down.
Prime examples are Mark Brennan’s tone in the long guitar solo at the top of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” that carried the heartbreak of the original as stage lights pulsed red, purple, green then blue. Another highlight was the staccato beat that drove “See Emily Play.”
It must be a challenge to keep the setlist of a tribute show fresh, Sosinski kept this one surprising by throwing in the odd obscure offering, “One of These Days.” The mostly instrumental — one line of distorted vocal threatens to cut someone into little pieces — was full of locomotive trippiness, complete with smoke and strobes to punctuate an ominous bass.
Rockin’ on the River promoter Bob Earley said he was expecting record attendance for the second year running for WYWH, the series’ biggest draw — even in the middle of a two-day heat advisory. There’s no way to tell if the turnout hit its mark, but that really doesn’t matter. You can’t ask for much more than spending a lazy weekend night strolling rows of food and arts vendors, watching an urban cop dance with a little kid in the crowd while thousands of people sing the word “classroom” with a British accent in a sing-along version of “Another Brick in the Wall” — all on the banks of the Black River.
The Colin Dussault Blues Project turned in two hours of reimagined covers and originals, including a song written for this daughter after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Dussault’s voice, always a mixture of gravel and heart gave just the right edge to the lyrics in “A Song for Our Children.” In the face of this fire, facing fire's what you do.”
Jonathan Edwards “Shanty” and “Lodi” were tricked out with Brent Lane’s honky-tonk piano.
Dussault’s blues harp is the band’s signature and the foundation of some inventive arrangements, including my favorite of the night, a version of Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” that morphed into “Gimme Shelter.”